I responded to an e-newsletter about this subject when a frustrated mom said her boys "do not want to do their schoolwork, and it is a battle come school time." Her slightly older daughter was a different story. I thought I would share my perspective here:
I've been a homeschooling mom of four sons for the past 17+ years and I think I've learned some valuable lessons. I know that this is not necessarily a "boy" problem, though it may be more prevalent since boys tend to mature slower than girls. Some personality types adore all the paper work and attention to details while some students (especially some boys) just aren't impressed. All children however should have a natural curiosity and be excited about learning which can be expressed in a number of ways—other than writing or filling in workbooks etc. If you use a "canned" curriculum that is meant for a classroom of kids, there is no way that you will be teaching to your individual child's strengths, interests or abilities.
We approached school as an enjoyable learning time and "lifestyle" together—very flexible. My desire to learn along with my sons meant that I was always very involved. I made time to do more fun things together, tap into their interests, utilize more oral (rather than written) expressions of learning in the earlier years, along with many hands-on activities. We always read aloud and discussed many great books together. Unit studies worked very well for us. I had two very late readers who eventually caught up. I had a gifted son who needed very little from me, as well as two sons with delayed abilities which meant doing math together for many years, lots of spelling games, and utilizing hands-on learning. My advice is to tune into your children's needs and wants.
How do you get them to care and become self motivated? You have to spark their interest. They have to see a relevancy in what you are making them do. Here are some ideas: Find more practical and interesting writing assignments—a letter to Grandpa, a friend or the President! Keep notes about observations for a science project; design a game and write the activity cards for it; create true/false questions about a subject you are learning and test Dad and your friends; dramatize a story; let them dictate a story or poem to you and make it into a real book to be shared; write a review on a book they liked for a kid's magazine or Amazon.com; make a recording of a story complete with sound effects; enjoy scrapbooking as a family writing captions for photos or each member can tell their side of the picture story presented. Project oriented ideas can be wonderful motivators adding a fun element. (see my list of many more ideas in a previous posting)
Help children to take pride in their work. Offer encouragement and praise for each little success they show. Take it one step at a time. It may be that your expectations are too high. Help them form good new habits and enjoy expressing their ideas. Learn to enjoy your boys and their unique perspective on life and don't be afraid to ask them what they'd like to learn and follow up on it. Pray, pray and keep on praying for God to guide you in this awesome journey of living and learning with your precious children.
Photo Credit: Benjamin takes a different look at Jeremiah who is reading a creative story he wrote to a class of other homeschoolers.